Cute and Sickly Sweet – 24 Vintage Snapshots That Invite a Reaction



The girl presenting her pet lizard toad at the Children’s Pets show held on Venice Beach, California, in the mid 1930s makes for a cute photograph. Walter Chandoha’s 1955 picture of his daughter Paula with a kitten in 1955 is also cute. Angie Cook’s school photo from 1978 when she was age five is cute. So children and pets can be cute. On a Venn Diagram of cute, the sweet spot might be children with pets.

Here, Robert E. Jackson shares an album of vintage snapshots from his collection on the theme of ‘cute’. As he writes, “You can never have too many cats”, an opinion supported by how popular cats in art are.

The album also makes us wonder at how things designed to be cute can become a tad sinister as the sugar turns sickly sweet and we begin to feel manipulated and as restrained. The subject in the image is not a figure full of complexities, contradictions, teeth and claws but something that is simply ‘cute’.




‘Dimorphous Expressions of Positive Emotion: Displays of Both Care and Aggression in Response to Cute Stimuli’

– title of a 2015 study by Psychological Science department at Yale University into why people see something cute and want to crush it




“It’s a universal instinct of the human species, isn’t it, that desire to dress up in some sort of disguise?” said Frank.

“I must be very inhuman then,” said Maxim.

“It’s natural, I suppose,” said Colonel Julyan, “for all of us to wish to look different. We are all children in some ways.”

― Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca




And they called it puppy love
Oh I guess they’ll never know
How a young heart how it really feels
And why I love her so

– Paul Anka, Puppy Love



“We learn how to disguise our differentness as we grow up. [She] doesn’t know how to do that yet.”

― Annie Proulx, The Shipping News




“I’d much rather be a woman than a man. Women can cry, they can wear cute clothes, and they are the first to be rescued off of sinking ships.”

— Gilda Radner



“First of all, keep him out of the light, he hates bright light, especially sunlight, it’ll kill him. Second, don’t give him any water, not even to drink. But the most important rule, the rule you can never forget, no matter how much he cries, no matter how much he begs, never feed him after midnight.”

Gremlins, 1984




“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”

— John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America


cute cute


“That’s the trouble with living things. Don’t last very long. Kittens one day, old cats the next. And then just memories. And the memories fade and blend and smudge together.”

— Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane



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